Completing 1 L in your thirties: a mature student experience

Ontario Law Student, Class of 2016


I did it! I got into law school. Wait, how am I going to tell my wife and kids?

As anxious as I was about getting into law school, it was explaining my decision that was the hard part. Just as I was reaching, what could have been, a stable point in my professional and personal life I risked it all on law.

Starting 1L as a mature student involved disrupting my career, selling my house, and moving into a basement apartment with my wife and children. Combining law school with raising toddlers made it sure to follow that I would never sleep again and I seriously wondered if I could do both. Despite my trepidation, I jumped in headfirst but worried that my decision would cause undue stress on my family.

Truthfully, law school did cause a lot of stress as it surely does for students of any age. The negative effect that my absence was having on my family was plain to see. The mounting financial pressure did not help. Although I was determined to get through 1L, I always felt guilty about my decision and isolated from those closest to me before beginning law school.

Looking back, it is plain that I needed more financial support and assistance with childcare. The scheduling and general pacing of law did not harmonize with raising small children and my family and academics suffered as I stumbled from one role to the other.

The process was taxing and I was frequently sick, ate very poorly, rarely rested or slept and became disconnected from the usual supports that could have helped me when I needed it most. Even after completing final exams my anxiety mounted as I worried about finding summer work, saving for 2L tuition and making-up for lost time with my family.

I now realize that many professors are quite prepared to advise and support mature students in 1L but, that it is essential to engage them in September. I was not interested in explaining my predicament later on in the school year and my reluctance to ask for help only made things harder.

I do not regret pursuing law as a mature student. It can be done! However, planning is critical, as law school will quickly take over your life but family matters will still be there demanding your attention. Ask for and access any supports you can very early on: the eight months will be over before you know it!